On Saturday, December 5th, Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) in Lahore organized Youth Convention 2015. The convention, dedicated to the struggle of Che Guevara, formally launched PYA on national scale. Most progressive student organizations joined hands to form the biggest alliance of its kind in recent decades in Pakistan. The mains aims of formation of this alliance are to fight for free education, guaranteed employment or unemployment benefits for the youth, and the revival of student unions in the educational institutions.
Months of campaigning and hard work proved fruitful, and more than 1500 revolutionary youth and delegates representing various students organizations and youth councils gathered at Bagh-e-Jinnah (Lawrence Gardens) Open Air Theater in the heart of Lahore. A large number of young workers affiliated to the Pakistan Trade Union Defense Campaign (PTUDC) were also present. Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation (JKNSF) and Balouch Students Organization (Pajjar) officially announced their affiliation to PYA. Students from various universities and colleges of Kashmir; Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Dadu (Sindh); Sawat, Malakand and Peshawar (Pushtoonkhawa); Quetta (Balochistan) and Rawalpindi/Islamabad, Faisalabad, Multan, DG Khan, Sialkot, the main cities of Punjab, all formed youth convoys to travel to the venue.
Youth from all the major institutions of Lahore, including Government College University, Punjab University, Forman Christian College, University of Lahore, and University of Management & Technology were also present. Students belonging to the Peoples Students Federation, Pashtoon Students Federation, and various other student and youth organisations participated. The event was full of enthusiastic speeches, music, slogans, and fervor. Open Air Theater was beautifully decorated with dozens of hoardings, flags, and banners.
Yasmeen Zahra Anwar from Young Doctors Association, and an active member of PYA Lahore, chaired and conducted the convention. The convention opened at 11 AM with an opening speech by National Organizer of PYA Imran Kamyana. He welcomed all the participants, explained the aims and motives of PYA, and shed light on the past and present of students’ politics and movements in the country. Basic demands of at least a ten-fold increase in the education budget, employment for all, nationalization of all education institutions, and lifting of the ban on students unions were well appreciated by the audience.
Yasmeen Zahra read out solidarity messages sent by Marxist Students Federation (US), Marxist Students Federation (Britain), Youth Against Capitalism (Greece), Revolutionary Socialists (Denmark), All India Students Association (AISA) and from socialist youth organizations of Holland, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Mexico, and Indonesia.
Amongst the speakers were, Mir Zareef Rind (Central Organizer BSO Pajjar) from Baluchistan, Basharat Ali (President JKNSF) from Kashmir, Wali Khan of Pashtun Students Federation Quetta, Shehryar Zoq of YFIS, Nadir Gopang of Peoples Students Federation Multan, young female student Mahbaloos Asad from BZU Multan, Rameez Misrani of BNT Sindh, Vinod Kumar from Sindh University, Hidayat of Gilgit Baltistan Council Punjab University, Faiqa from Gender Studies Department Punjab University Lahore, Asif Rasheed of PYA Islamabad, Sangeen Khan of Vaikh Zalmian (Awakened Youth- Pashtoon youth progressive organisation based both in Pakistan and Afghanistan) KPK, Umar Rasheed from Agriculture University Faisalabad, Fazeel Asghar from Punjab College Bahawalpur and Zain Ul Abideen from PYA Lahore.
The speakers condemned the privatization and commodification of education, neoliberalism, imperialism and state oppression, gender discrimination, and Islamic fundamentalism. The immediate need for an alliance of all progressive currents within the youth, and the building of revolutionary political force was stressed. A talented disabled young musician, Niaz Hunzai, expert in eighteen musical instruments, played traditional folk tunes in between the speeches, with participants dancing to the rhythm. Other performers included Nasir Khan and Dr. Umar Fazli, who sang revolutionary poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Sahir Ludhianvi.
A slate for the Central Executive Body of PYA was announced which includes Farhan Gohar as Chairman, Basharat Ali Khan as Vice Chairman, Imran Kamyana as Central Organizer, Mir Zareef Rind as General Secretary, Sangeen Bacha as Joint Secretary, Vinod Kumar as Information Secretary, Mahbloos Asad as Finance Secretary, Wali Khan as Secretary Political Education, Nadir Gopang as Secretary Publications, and Shah Jahan as Secretary Culture & Art. Former President JKNSF and Organizer PYA Muzaffarabad, Rashid Sheikh, took oath of “struggle for the realization of the socialist program of Progressive Youth Alliance and building of the organization” from the newly elected officials.
The convention formally ended with a standing ovation to the instrumental version of The Internationale. A torch-bearing rally marched from the venue to Charing Cross, the main square located in front of Punjab Assembly House in the center of Lahore, highlighting the basic demands of PYA through banners, placards, and slogans.
This successful and enthusiastic congregation of the youth organized by the supporters of the IMT in Pakistan will lift morale and go a long way towards building the forces of revolutionary Marxism in South Asia.